Surviving the holidays with your young children



Holiday celebrations and visits are occasions of happiness and sharing among family and friends but can also be stressful. For your young child/children, the holidays often mean changes in their schedules, family visitors and gatherings, and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. See our tips on traveling with your child:

Here are some things to keep in mind that may help the holidays be more enjoyable for both you and your child/children:


  • Make sure your child is being supervised by a familiar adult or is engaged with a toy, with another child or a group of children.
  • Don’t assume your child will manage on her own while you chat with the adults. This can create a situation in which she could become disruptive.
  • You and your partner can switch off doing childcare. This will allow for more rewarding time with the adults when it is your turn to socialize.



  • Explain to your relatives that your child does best when he can come on his own timetable. If applicable, remind your relative that it has been a while since your child has seen him or her.
  • Talk in a calm, authoritative manner, even if your relative is insulted by your child’s refusal to “give a hug”. Reassure your relative that this is what will work best in the end.
  • Try playing a familiar game with your child and your relative so they can begin to form a connection.
  • Remember, you are your child’s advocate, even if it means presenting a different point of view to demanding or critical family members.


  • If your child receives too many presents at once, you can give her one or two gifts at a time. That way, your child can focus on and enjoy each gift without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to allow some down time in between events.
  • Rather than be disappointed in your child or yourself, assume there will be some meltdowns, even with the best planning.

Stressful mornings

what to wear

Hectic, stressful mornings are a common complaint among families with young children. Several people trying to get up, washed, fed, dressed and out the door in less than an hour. It can feel almost impossible to get through the mornings without an outburst from a child or a parent. Many parents feel shame, guilt and disappointment that they need to repeat themselves or even yell to keep their child focused on the morning routine and out the door in time for work and school. The preschool years can be particularly difficult because this is the first time that your child has had to maintain a morning schedule and may resist giving up a slower paced start to the day. Schedules can feel arbitrary and difficult to understand for a toddler or preschooler, and parents can feel frustrated and angry when their child does not follow through with the tasks at hand. It is helpful to understand some of the factors that contribute to the hectic start to the day so that your family can make changes that will allow for a more peaceful morning.

Most often, the end of a busy morning routine is met with a “goodbye” and separation between parents and children. This can be difficult for a preschooler who is just settling into school and learning to separate from Mommy and Daddy.   Your child may not feel the same rush to get to school on time as you do because she is not feeling ready to say goodbye. This is a troublesome feeling to put into words for a young child or they may not even realize that they are feeling this. Instead, they will resist the morning routine and delay the goodbye as a way of communicating or acting out their struggle. It is helpful for parents to put the behaviors and feelings into words and reassure their preschooler that they understand and can help. It can be as simple as saying, “Mornings can be really tricky because there is a lot to do before we have to say goodbye at school and saying goodbye is still hard when we get there. Remember, I can read a book with you before you go into the classroom and I will be back to pick you up when school is finished. So let’s get those shoes on so we have time for that book”.

It is also challenging to balance your morning schedule and needs with the needs of your children. Some parents have  to check their emails or messages to help organize their day, but their child requires their full attention. Others want their morning coffee, alone time or even a shower before they can attend to their child’s needs. This can be impossible to do if you are all waking up at the same time. Many parents find it extremely helpful to wake up before their child so that they can have the much needed time to themselves to start the day. This can be achieved by setting your alarm 20-30 minutes before your child’s wake-up time, allowing you to turn on your coffee maker, check your messages and jump in the shower before you have to make breakfast, give repeated reminders about teeth brushing, and help with shoelaces.

Families can also strategize together about how to make mornings easier. Ask your preschooler what she thinks about the morning…”Wow Missy, this was a really hard morning! You really didn’t want to get dressed and Mommy yelled too much. What do you think we could do so that tomorrow is not so rushed and hard”. The answer will probably not be a fully developed plan, but even short responses such as, “I don’t like to wear tights to school” can be very helpful. Planning together gives your child an active role in the morning and also some accountability.

These are just a few ideas that can help families establish more manageable and successful morning routines. UWS Parenting Support works with families who need more specific and individualized guidance to restructure their mornings and help their child calmly and happily start their day. Please call or email to learn more or schedule an appointment.